Raptors must unleash contract year Gary Trent Jr. after solid showing vs. Bulls

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 17: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 17: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors may have placed 2024 free agent Gary Trent Jr. on the bench to give a traditional point guard like Dennis Schroder some extra run in the starting lineup, but that doesn’t mean they will minimize his role. In fact, Trent might be in for the best season of his pro career.

With Darko Rajakovic’s offense prioritizing ball movement, space, and shooting above all else, Trent, who is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, could be in a much better situation than what Nick Nurse and his incredibly boring half-court offense gave him in past seasons.

Trent has been on fire in the preseason, as he was one of the best players in Toronto’s win against the Sacramento Kings. During Toronto’s dalliance with the Chicago Bulls, it was Trent who once again showed what a lethal offensive presence he can be at his best.

Trent finished Toronto’s 106-102 win with 11 points, four rebounds, and a surprising four assists. He was passing later in this exhibition, and the preseason is still the preseason, but Trent could end up with some votes for Sixth Man of the Year and a deal that approaches nine figures if he keeps this up.

The Toronto Raptors must unleash Gary Trent Jr.

Moving to the bench can be challenging for players like Trent. He can’t shoot every single time he goes down the floor, but moving to the second unit can often mean fewer shots and opportunities for a player with so much of his value tied up in his perimeter play. Trent struggled at times off the bench last year.

This time, Trent is looking like a man on a mission. Not only is he hitting 3-pointers and using his active hands to create turnovers, but he is looking like a much better and more willing passer. For a player who has become semi-famous on Raptors Twitter for his itchy trigger finger, this is a promising development.

Rather than letting Trent end up as the No. 4 or No. 5 option in terms of attempts in the starting lineup, Rajakovic put him on the bench and gave him the greenest light imaginable. In just about every facet, Trent looks improved.

It is quite easy to forget that Trent is younger than Malachi Flynn and is very much a young player in development. Rajakovic helped make Desmond Bane a max level player, and he may have stumbled on his next development project in Trent.